In 1969, José Montoya and a band of merry instigators in Sacramento, Calif., cofounded a politically active arts collective called the Royal Chicano Air Force. Those students, poets, artists and revolutionaries would go on to influence the period’s burgeoning Chicano identity movement and fight for farmworkers’ rights. Good thing they had a sense of humor, though—Montoya and his friends actually created a collective called the “Rebel Chicano Art Front” but discovered their initials kept getting confused with those for the Royal Canadian Air Force. So they rolled with it, donning military regalia and claiming to fly adobe airplanes.
Born in Escobosa, N.M., in 1932, Montoya passed away last year at the age of 81. But he’s remembered and revered for his trailblazing work as a consciousness-raiser, artist, teacher, musician and most especially, poet. Now other poets are converging on Albuquerque to celebrate Montoya’s charged blend of English, Spanish and pachuco street slang in a Poet’s Conclave at the National Hispanic Cultural Center (1701 Fourth Street SW). On Saturday, May 31, from 7 to 9pm, they’ll read from their own work and from Montoya’s—writers like Jimmy Santiago Baca (the nationally known local boy who wrote the screenplay for Blood In, Blood Out), Demetria Martinez (author of the award-winning The Block Captain’s Daughter), Laurie Ann Guerrero (San Antonio’s poet laureate), Richard Vargas (publisher of the Más Tequila Review), Jessica Helen Lopez (ABQ’s new poet laureate) and many others. The evening is free, but donations are encouraged; head to nhccnm.org for more details.
Girls do love horses—just cross-reference the enduring popularity of equines from National Velvet to My Little Pony. And as is sometimes the case, the stereotype exists for a reason. But there’s also something deeper, something more lasting to it than the phenomenon of girly pop culture ubiquity might suggest. (For one thing, just about everybody likes horses.) Female artists reveal a quartet of perspectives on the animal archetype of the American West in Year of the Horse: Equine Art by Women Artists, now at Matrix Fine Art (3812 Central SE) through Saturday, May 31. Lynne Pomeranz’ photo portraits of wild horses in archival pigment prints, for example, show the animal in muted shades and natural light. “Shoshone” displays a shaggy brown coat and windblown mane, velveteen ears perked. Fixed with an alert, direct gaze, we learn from an explanatory sign that this was a “three-strikes horse,” thrice offered but never adopted. Had he not been taken in by Cimarron Sky-Dog Reserve in Watrous, N.M., Shoshone likely would’ve ended his days at the slaughterhouse.
Susan Leyland’s evocation of the horse in mixed media is more subtle and suggestive. Hers are simple forms emerging ghostlike and incomplete from the paper on which they’re sketched. We catch hints of minutiae—the face’s architecture, the suggestion of musculature—and strokes of color tracing the outline. Meanwhile, in Nance McManus’ charcoals on paper, force and physicality take center stage; Suzanne Betz’ pearly horse flanks and touching noses gleam from black-painted mylar; and Cynthia Rigden evokes tradition in her diminutive, well-framed oils. See matrixfineart.com or call 268-8952 for hours. The day I visited the gallery, I got to experience a special treat—two paintings by Susan Reid laid out on a table, ready to be stretched. Hers are intense geometrics fusing color, scale and form; her show Focal Point with botanical painter Sarah Hartshorne opens on Friday, June 6, but can be caught in a sneak preview starting June 3.
Become a churchgoer
In the market for clay stoneware? Woodcut prints? Sun catchers? Natural soap? Silk painting? Clay figures? Beaded jewelry, silver jewelry, semiprecious stone jewelry? Just about anything else lovely, useful or otherwise exquisitely perfect for your person or your casa? Enjoy an irresistible treasure trove of locally made handicrafts at the 22nd Old Church Artfest in Corrales, hosted and juried by the Visual Arts Council of the Corrales Historical Society on Saturday, May 31, and Sunday, June 1. Open 10am to 5pm, the fest is free to attend and takes place in sight of the twin spires of the charming Old San Ysidro Church (966 Old Church Road, Corrales). Among many others, Albuquerque artist Debbie Jones will be there with her rich landscapes rendered in fabric collage, as will Al Hockwalt with his whimsical—but still entirely functional—birdhouses, Kristin Parrott with her delicate watercolors and stone-formed acorns and Sandra Lipka with her botanical pottery. Get thee to the old church on time before someone else buys up your favorite one-of-a-kind masterpiece.